By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2020-08-24 08:25:29
The Congress Working Committee (CWC) meets later in the day today. Among other things, the leadership issue has been put firmly on the agenda by two separate developments. In the first, Sonia Gandhi has written to CWC members expressing her inability to continue as interim chief any longer. In any case, she has held the reins temporarily for more than one year now. The second development was the unprecedented letter, signed by nearly 300 prominent Congressmen including some ex-CMs, ex-ministers and MPs, that was sent to Sonia Gandhi in which the signatories expressed sadness at the state of drift in the party and called for corrective action. The party has officially denied having received any such letter.
It is reported that despite the running old guard versus young Turks feud in the party, the said letter has been signed by Congressmen cutting across the generational divide. The signatories include Kapil Sibal, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Veerappa Moily, Anand Sharma, Mukul Wasnik, Milind Deora, Shashi Tharoor, Jitin Prasada, Sandeep Dikshit and Manish Tiwari, among others. These leaders have drawn Sonia Gandhi's attention to the fact that the party has not been able to offer a calibrated response to the several crises facing the country and has not been able to capitalize on the mistakes of the NDA government. The said that the party was in decline and immediate action needs to be taken to arrest it.
It is extremely sad that a national party like the Congress, which has experienced leaders, an all-India infrastructure and most importantly, still gets nearly 20 percent of the popular votes in the general elections, has allowed itself to be pushed to the wall. None of its responses since the 2014 defeat at the hands of the BJP have resonated with the people. It has not been pro-active and has allowed the BJP to dictate terms. The biggest folly the party has committed is to project Rahul Gandhi as the alternative to Narendra Modi. That question was settled way back in 2014 when an out of depth Rahul was taken to the cleaners. Yet the party persisted with him in 2019 and suffered the consequences. It has still not learned the lesson and that is evident in the way many Congress leaders want him to return as the Congress president.
Rahul Gandhi is clearly not cut out for the job. He has often picked the wrong issues and his responses to the right issues have seldom clicked with the people. Hence, if demanding proof of the surgical strikes was a howler (and the BJP lost no time in branding him a spokesman for Pakistan), continuing with the refrain chowkidar chor hai was a bigger mistake, especially when most polls showed that a minuscule percentage of people actually believed that Modi could be corrupt. Despite advice from the old guard in the party to resist from making personal attacks on Modi, Rahul has persisted with the strategy and it has taken his stock down further. Rahul's popularity is at its lowest even as Modi's has soared, despite the alleged mishandling of the economy, the coronavirus and migrant workers' crises.
The Congress has to look for a person from outside the Gandhi family to lead it. But is the Congress capable of doing that? The Gandhi family name is the only joining glue for the various leaders who form the Congress. They cannot take orders from anyone else. So what will happen in the CWC meeting? Everyone will first appeal to Sonia Gandhi to reconsider her decision to step down. As she is not likely to agree, they will ask her to continue until an alternative is found (they could not find one in one year and will hope to do so in a few months). There will be a chorus of appeals to Rahul to take over. He will obviously refuse, for now. In the end, Sonia will consent to continue for a couple of months and ask the CWC to find a new president by then. As usual, there will be no immediate solution, or even a glimmer of hope for a solution and the party will keep hurtling down towards the path of self-destruction. Any other scenario will be a pleasant surprise for those who believe that a strong opposition is absolutely essential for a vibrant democracy.